The Woodstock Episodes
Remembering the Visionary, Gone too Soon -- Michael Lang
Michael Lang -- the Creator and Driving Spirit of Woodstock -- left us on Saturday, January 8, 2022. We at Talkin' 'bout Our Generation are deeply saddened by this huge loss, but feel blessed to have been able to interview him in September of 2020. You can listen to that episode, updated, here:
When we talked to people who worked alongside Michael before and during the event and who continued on as his friends afterwards, we kept hearing about this enigmatic side to Michael that was part genius, part entrepreneur, part good-looking boyish cherub, and part mystery.
Head Crew Cook Carol Green said: "Michael Lang has this little shining star over him, or he did for a long time, and I hope he still does. He had this optimism about everything and a lot of it was just Michael's kind of 'beingness'… "There was just spoken and unspoken agreement that we're going to continue, we're going to make this happen. Everything was magical about it."
Michael was a man of few words. Photographer Henry Diltz remembers getting a phone call from him in his Laurel Canyon kitchen, lasting about 30 seconds. "Chip says we need you. I'm sending you $500 and a plane ticket to New York". Click. Like Carol, Henry said Michael had a rare presence that he believes was the reason Woodstock happened, against overwhelming odds. "Every day Michael Lang would come by with his leather vest and either be on a horse, a tractor, or a motorbike. And he was so charming, very cherubic looking.
"And you know, it was his vibe, his vision, his idea that this will be three days of peace and music. And recently we did an interview together and he said, 'When things get weird, I get calm.' And he was that way."
Michael was 77 when he passed away. He was the same optimistic, mercurial leader that he was at 23. He was a rare soul who radiated calm amid chaos, someone who had a keen ability to tap into the pulse of Our Generation and ride with it, to all of our advantage.
The late Sixties were a scary time, a time of division, corruption, anger, violence, and fear -- not that much different than our life right now. Many of us wanted something different, to stop the War, to stop the violence, to respect Nature and protect our environment. But we did not know how many of us there were.
Woodstock changed that.
Michael picked up on that "Zeitgeist" -- that Spirit of Our Time -- and channeled it into that field on Max Yasgur's Dairy Farm. But Woodstock was much more than a three-day concert. Together with his incredible crew -- the "Woodstock Family" -- and the amazing musicians who delivered a unified message in their music, Woodstock brought together half a million young people from disparate backgrounds who discovered that we were not alone. Woodstock started a potent movement that changed the world.
Michael Lang and Woodstock issued a resounding statement that there was a better way, a better way of thinking, of living: Peace, Cooperation, Compassion, Understanding.... generating a spreading spirit that still lives on in millions of us, a message that is extremely relevant right now.
In his honor, we are re-streaming an updated version of our extraordinary interview with Michael. In his gentle voice, you can sense the very special spirit that Michael possessed that could make even the most ambitious dreams come true. When we talked, he was sitting on his front porch in the countryside near Woodstock. You could hear the birds singing, an occasional car pass by — but mostly, peace…. the peace HE sought, and — hopefully — the peace he found.
May he Rest in that Peace.
“My father always taught me to be self-reliant. That was his thing — just take care of it, no matter what. Early on he gave me a strategy for getting out of tough situations: Take charge and keep moving; step back just enough to think clearly; and trust your instincts.”
"I guess by Saturday, when everybody had arrived or everybody who was gonna get there arrived, we knew that this was going to be a historic moment. Nobody ever thought about whether it would resonate or not, or how it would resonate, but we knew that this was extraordinary.
-- Michael Lang
Photo © Henry Diltz
From Michael's Facebook Page, in his own words:
I am a musical concert promoter, producer and artistic manager who is best known as the co-creator of the Woodstock Music & Art Festival in 1969. In 1967, I left NYU and moved to Coconut Grove, Florida to open a head shop. In 1968, after promoting a series of concert events in the Miami area, I produced the '"Miami Pop Festival", probably the largest music festival of its time. It drew 80,000 people over two days with such acts as Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Janis Joplin, Mothers of Invention, John Lee Hooker, Arthur Brown, and Blue Cheer.
Soon after, I moved to Woodstock, NY and met Artie Kornfeld. He and I developed the concept for a major festival event to celebrate the '60s social movements, and planned to open a recording studio in the town of Woodstock. Along with Kornfeld and partners John P. Roberts and Joel Rosenman, I set into motion the Woodstock festival, which was eventually held on Max Yasgur's farm in Bethel, New York, from August 15 to August 17, 1969.
I owned and operated Just Sunshine Records, which produced and released more than 40 albums by a huge mix of artists such as: Billy Joel, Betty Davis and Mississippi Fred McDowell. I also managed several successful international recording artists, including Joe Cocker, Ricki Lee Jones, Willie DeVille, Tarkan, and Spanish recording artists El Ultimo de la Fila.
My newest endeavor is The Michael Lang Organization (MLO). The organization encompasses live event production, film production and artist management. Projects that MLO has been involved in include a 50th anniversary event for the Lincoln Center featuring the French Theater company Royal Delux, a 40th anniversary event for Woodstock in summer 2009, a movie version of the cult classic novel, "The Master and Margarita" and theater projects in Turkey and South Korea. In August 2005, MLO produced sold out Festival event for Heineken at Randall’s Island called Amsterjam which featured mash ups from artists such as Snoop Dogg, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Wyclef Jean. MLO also has worked with the following artists: Outkast, Prince, Missy Elliott, Snoop Dog, Steely Dan, The Fugees, Wyclef Jean, Tarkan, Shakira, Madonna, Norah Jones, Marc Anthony, Twista, Dave Matthews, Bruce Springsteen, Alicia Keys, Kid Rock, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Christina Aguilera, Linkin Park, and Avril Lavigne.
In 2009, my company Woodstock Ventures, which was started by me, Joel Rosenman, and the John Roberts estate formed a joint venture with Sony Music Entertainment and launched a new woodstock.com. The site celebrates the history of the original Woodstock Festivals and serves as a live music social network.